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Exercise Your Understanding of God & Demonstrate His Power
Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, December 31st, 2012
Exercise Your Understanding of God, and Demonstrate His Power
Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for:
for December 31, 2012—January 6, 2013
By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn, Illinois
email@example.com / (630) 830-8683
Do you think God hears your prayers? The Golden Text says He does. This statement, while comforting, can also be a bit misleading. The traditional way of thinking is that man has a need, he prays to God for a solution or help, God then hears the request and answers it...or not. This is really not how it works. Actually, we are never really in need and we’re never separated from God. As we realize the spiritual facts, it appears to human sense that God is hearing our prayer and answering it. As Science and Health says, “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (Science and Health 2:15-16). In Unity of Good, page 4, Mary Baker Eddy explains, “To gain a temporary consciousness of God's law is to feel, in a certain finite human sense, that God comes to us and pities us; but the attainment of the understanding of His presence, through the Science of God, destroys our sense of imperfection, or of His absence, through a diviner sense that God is all true consciousness; and this convinces us that, as we get still nearer Him, we must forever lose our own consciousness of error.” Gaining the understanding “that God is all true consciousness” is what this Lesson is about. The more we understand about God, the better our ability to demonstrate it.
In the Responsive Reading, the psalmist writes with the expectation that his readers will be humble enough to learn from their hard experiences. He emphasizes that God doesn’t merely provide men with pleasantries, but provides men with what they need. He gives them what is good for them to have, not just what they want. The refrain that men praise God for His wonderful works holds true at all times, and especially when facing difficult challenges. It’s those dark hours that often yield the greatest inspiration.
This reminds me of a time when I was in great physical distress—literally fighting for my next breath and to remain conscious. I was also literally in the dark on the cold wooden floor, while my family was downstairs cleaning up from dinner, unaware of my apparent extremity. I could barely think, much less pray. But the thought came very clearly to me, that even though I felt at that moment, like I knew nothing at all about God, He certainly knew everything about me, and that brought me comfort. The eventual healing took months of prayer, but I will never forget the peace I felt, knowing that God was the only Mind, and that was good enough for me.
In that hour, I let go of any pre-conceived notion of human wisdom. I realized that no human attributes or advantages were of any use. I saw that only the understanding of God has value. We need our practical demonstration to match our theory. This week, as we explore how understanding God brings healing to our lives, let’s make every effort to apply the truths in each section.
Section 1: God’s Oneness Is Allness (Exercise Omnipresence)
The opening verse in Deut. 6:4 (B1) is known as the “Shema.” It is an emphatic expression of the oneness of God. Theologian Albert Barnes writes, “This weighty text contains far more than a mere declaration of the unity of God as against polytheism; or of the sole authority of the revelation that He had made to Israel as against other pretended manifestations of His will and attributes. It asserts that the Lord God of Israel is absolutely God, and none other. He, and He alone, is Jehovah (Yahweh) the absolute, uncaused God...”
When we are in times of extreme need or distress, it can seem like either God has abandoned us, or that there are at least, apparent forces working in opposition to Him. But the very essence of God is His supreme singularity and allness. In a human sense, it is difficult to imagine a being capable of being everywhere at once. My wife’s grandma used to lament, “God is too busy for little old me. He’s got all those people in China to worry about.” How far is that from the truth! God is never too busy for anyone, and we can never be apart or outside of His care because God is all there is; we are in Him. He fills all space (B2, B3). Isaiah reminds us that even when we didn’t think so, God has, and always will be strengthening, guarding, and guiding us (B4). Since God is ONE, there “is none else.” That is a key factor to consider. We need not fear any circumstance because God is the only presence there is. We are always completely cared for and safe. Paul’s letter to the Romans (B5), elaborates this. “of him, and through him, and to him, are all things...”—that is, God is our Source, our continuing Cause, and our ultimate Destination. We come from Him, act in Him, and remain with Him.
The textbook states that nothing less than allness can express God (S1). But we need to be careful here. Some might take that statement to mean that God is everything, i.e. nature, and the totality of the universe. That is pantheism. It’s a distinction that must be made in Christian Science. God is all, but all that appears to the senses is not God. God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love” (S2). Most readers will recognize these as the seven synonyms for God. The only place to begin our understanding of reality and true being is to grasp that God is the Principle of all that is (S3). Take a long look at this passage on page 275:10—24. This statement speaks clearly for itself, so just drink it in for yourself. Revel in the immense significance of each phrase. Truly absorbing and understanding those concepts will change your entire outlook on life. As we begin to get it, we won’t even need to bother debating it, we will have nothing left to do, but rejoice (S4).
Section 2: God Is All Good
On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward, that God is considered to be supremely good. Yet, there are philosophical arguments which challenge Omnipotent goodness on the grounds that “good” can only be understood relative to that which is “bad.” In other words, “good” is inherently measured against those things which are not “good.” But here is where we find the departure between human reason and divine reality. The spiritual understanding of the statement that God is good, when carried to its logical conclusion, must lead to a consistency of goodness in everything proceeding from God.
The psalmist declares “The Lord is good to all, his tender mercies are over all his works” (B6). As Adam Clarke puts it, “There is not a soul out of hell that is not continually under his most merciful regards... His bowels of compassion are over all his works.” While we can understand and appreciate his point, it still doesn’t go far enough in metaphysics. The psalmist hints at this point declaring that God has no pleasure in wickedness, “neither shall evil dwell with thee” (B7), but the apostle James hits the mark: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above...from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (B8). In God, there isn’t even the possibility of “a soul from hell” as Clarke suggests. God is completely, unequivocally, absolutely good. There is no opposite by which to measure good. It’s just all good. As Genesis states, “everything he has made is “very good” (B9).
Mrs. Eddy boldly followed this line of reason to its conclusion; right in the face of the scholastic and philosophical conundrum of trying to explain where evil came from if God was all good. She points out that God is simply defined as, and in many languages, synonymous with good (S5). Despite human appearances, she sticks with the divine logic, that if good is ever present, evil must be “never present” (S6). She backs up her position by dismantling the human argument that evil is believed to be as natural as good. In so many words, she asks, Why should we accept evil and doubt good? Why not the other way around? (S7). Why indeed? She clearly states that it is our ignorance of God that produces discord in the first place. The simple solution is that a “right understanding of Him restores harmony” (S8).
So now ask yourself, how close you are to a “right understanding of Him?” Do you feel that there is a possibility for evil to somehow find its way into reality? Or, do you think that occasionally God behaves more like a human than divine Principle, and enacts righteous vengeance on evil doers? If so, we are not fully understanding God for what He is. Take the step of going all the way, by following omnipotent goodness to its logical conclusion. Once again, your entire outlook will change.
Section 3: God Is the Only Power (Exercise Omnipotence)
Although God is omnipotent, omnipresent good, human experience would suggest the opposite. We seem to regularly face challenges that try to claim that there are powers other than God at work in our lives. These so-called powers appear to threaten and oppose not only the power of God, but our ability to turn to Him in times of need. To the psalmist, man is continually enveloped in God’s protection. He confidently looks to God for strength, courage, and safety (B10). In the story of Daniel and the lion’s den (B11) there are several forces at work claiming to usurp God’s power, and man’s right to exercise and utilize it.
In his own arena of influence, Daniel had a fair amount of power, but those under him were jealous and devised a plan to catch him breaking the law, and therefore forcing the king to eliminate Daniel. They began by flattering the king and appealing to his vanity, proposing a decree that anyone found praying or making a petition to anyone but the king for thirty days should be cast into the den of lions. As the story goes, the king didn’t think very deeply about it, and approved the law. As his enemies had planned, Daniel disregarded the prohibition.
The effect of this law was to deprive men of the comfort and freedom to turn to their God. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were forbidden to pray for a month? Oddly, there are probably millions of people today who pray even more rarely than that, if at all. But, for those accustomed to turning to God, even a day without prayer seems unthinkable. Would you ignore a law forbidding prayer? I’m sure I would. I remember as a child, when there was a fear that the Soviet Union would attack the United States, there was a real concern that if the invaders came, our freedom of religion would be in serious jeopardy. In fact, there are some today who feel the current health-care law legislation in the US is also a veiled attempt to discourage spiritual healing by mandating insurance that only covers medical treatment. Regardless of the motives of those for, or against the current health-care laws, there is no doubt that the carnal mind is always finding ways to discourage us from healing and turning to God.
Daniel prayed in spite of the king’s decree and it seemed that the power of “law” would prevail. But, Daniel’s prayer was no real threat to the king. He was innocent, and the power of God closed the lion’s mouths. We too, need not fear any legislation or law that seems to restrict our right to pray because no human law can supersede or supplant the power of God.
Our textbook assures us that “In Science, you can have no power opposed to God...” (S9). No matter what form evil takes to curtail either our freedom to pray, or that challenges the effectiveness of our prayer, we can take heart, because evil is powerless, and good is the only power. Like Daniel, Science—and those practicing it—heed “not the pointed bayonet” and march on to victory (S10). Mortal belief will never agree with us, because only spiritual sense can understand man’s relationship to God (S11). If we seem to be chained or imprisoned by sickness or sin, or under the control of seeming forces opposed to God, we can rest assured that the power of God can set us free (S12). The biblical stories of remarkable protection under extreme circumstances all serve as examples to strengthen our resolve, and give us courage to press on in our spiritual journeys (S13). Those legendary tales of deliverance are still being re-written today in the lives of people just like you and me, as we unashamedly leave our “windows open” and pray unapologetically to our omnipotent Father-Mother God—and nothing can stop us!
Section 4: Authority of the Christ
While “power” is the ability to do something, “authority” is the right earned, bestowed, or inherent to exercise that power. Daniel would not give up his prayer time, and neither would Jesus. As mentioned earlier, many people go long periods of time without praying. Even in church, congregations seem to get restless if silent prayer goes on too long. By contrast, the Master, Christ Jesus routinely spent an entire night in prayer. We can presume that such focused prayer gave him great confidence in God’s healing power. In such an uplifted state he was ready, and authorized to demonstrate that healing power. After one such night in prayer, he healed multitudes reaching out to him for help (B14).
Science and Health confirms that Jesus’ authority to heal came directly from God (S14). Jesus taught the truths that we are very familiar with as Christian Scientists—one God, and man in God’s image and likeness (S15). As Daniel gave no heed to laws restricting his freedom to pray, Jesus exercised the law of God to overcome all material laws of health (S16). As noted above, Christian Scientists are generally very concerned if their right to pray as they choose appears threatened. Do we take as strong a position against material laws in general? Do we oppose the beliefs that insist man “becomes sick and useless, suffers and dies”? (S16). If not, why? Reasoning from the standpoint of perfect God, and perfect man, we can logically conclude that it is impossible for man to be sick. If sickness were real, or true, it would be impossible to change it (S17). Reasoning that man is spiritual and perfect is the product of the Christ working in consciousness. Christ can be used as a term for Truth, as well as for the real man in God’s image and Likeness. Christ shows us who we really are, and authorizes us to exercise our God-given dominion (S18). The only way to become fully conscious of our Christly authority is through sincere, consecrated “prayer, watching, and working” (S19). The final ingredient is “self-immolation.” That means self-sacrifice. This is key, because the power to heal is not personal. Even Jesus said “the Son can do nothing of himself...” To exercise God’s healing power is to yield all personal sense and allow our true selfhood, our Christly nature to rule. Yielding to the Christ is yielding to the spiritual facts of creation and that is healing authority in action.
Section 5: Understanding Faith Is Stronger than Belief (Exercise Omniscience)
According to Mark, it was after another deeply spiritual experience—the transfiguration—that Jesus entered a scene in which his disciples were embroiled in a debate with the scribes. Apparently, the disciples had failed to heal a person in need and were being challenged over it. The person in need was a young man with a “dumb spirit” (B16). The father was very distressed over this chronic condition and even more anxious that the disciples failed to heal him. The father explains the situation and pleads for compassion. Compassion for those in need was a quality Jesus had in abundance. He responds that “all things are possible to him that believeth.” To which the man cries out, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Jesus heals the boy and then the disciples question why they weren’t successful. Jesus tells them that healing can only be achieved through “prayer and fasting.” The instruction is continued in Matthew (B17) where Jesus teaches us to enter our closet, and pray in secret. In other words, they need to shut out any input from the senses, and turn whole-heartedly to God.
All of us at one time or another have had situations where we’ve prayed, but haven’t had the results we would have liked. The disciples had good intentions, but apparently couldn’t rise above the human picture before them. They may have been mesmerized by the human picture. They also may have been self-conscious due to the public nature of the request for help. In any case, they found themselves in a bit over their heads. The father of the boy too, was really strung out about the situation. He wanted to believe, but he just felt he didn’t have what it would take. Jesus wasn’t fazed by any of it. He exercised his dominion and healing authority with complete confidence.
How can we do that? Our Leader opens the first chapter of our textbook with the answer: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,—a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (S20). This absolute faith can only come about by taking that “closet time” and really communing with, and understanding God. This is more than just a belief. Faith is stronger than belief. It is complete confidence and reliance on an understood Principle based on a clear understanding of God. In her article “Principle and Practice” (published first in the Septemeber 1, 1917 Christian Science Sentinel). Mrs. Eddy enumerates the dangers of relying on belief without understanding. I highly recommend you look at it if you aren’t familiar with it. (The article also appears in the 3rd volume of Robert Peel's "Mary Baker Eddy" - Appendix B - p. 377.) Christian Science healing is not merely belief. Our Leader expected us to be able to rise above the doubts and fears that attend simple belief as Jesus did, and respond to challenges with healing power (S21). Blind belief simply is not enough to heal, nor is human understanding sufficient to do the work. Jesus’ prayers are described as “deep and conscientious protests of Truth” (S22). “Conscientious” means, “governed by a strict regard to the dictates of conscience, or by the known...rules of right and wrong” (Student’s Reference Dictionary). This means we have a working understanding of what is real and what is not. This attitude is described in citation S24: We “stick to the truth of being...” and maintain “a clear perception.” We find that standpoint in our “closet” (S23). Now sometimes it takes some effort to get to that point of supreme confidence. If so, that’s when we use arguments—denials of error and corresponding affirmations of truth—but we have to remember that the denials and affirmations are not the treatment. As the textbook says, they are “only human auxiliaries to aid” us in getting our thoughts in line with the reality of things (S25). When we see the reality—that’s the treatment.
Section 6: Give God the Glory
As we’ve been saying, the healing power is not the result of human process or personal ability. True, we need to understand it, but it’s the Truth that heals and God is the healer. To this end, we give all power, glory and thanks to God (B18, B20). So, does God hear our prayer? We could answer, “yes.” But, it might be more accurate to say that it is our understanding of, and yielding to God’s absolute supremacy that brings the human picture into line with the spiritual reality. It’s more about our comprehending God, than about God hearing us. He answers our need before we even ask, which is tantamount to saying there is no need when we understand God.
Christian Science leads the way when it comes to giving God the glory (S26). That’s how we heal. Many other systems honor God, but only Christian Science rejects every human, medical, and material law, and this complete obedience to, and reliance on God alone demonstrates healing power (S27). The Discoverer of Christian Science found that traditional theology wasn’t enough to heal her, but the spiritual sense of things—obeying only God, acknowledging good as supreme, exercising the authority and power to heal—was an effectual present help (S28). Paraphrasing her logical argument again: if God is everywhere and has all power, evil is nowhere and powerless (S29). Only Christian Science allows man’s relationship to God and God’s healing power to be a present possibility. The last statement in this week’s Lesson (S30) is a great culmination of any treatment. “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!”
The application ideas above are from a Christian Science Practitioner who has served as a Resident Practitioner at CedarS Camps. They are provided primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and daily demonstrate the great value of study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons throughout the year, not just at camp! YOU CAN ALSO SIGN UP for weekly emails from past CedarS staff of possible ways to share Bible Lesson applications with older, as well as younger, Sunday School classes by clicking the "Subscribe Now" button (lower left) at http://www.cedarscamps.org/metaphysical
Warren Huff, CedarS Director & editor of these notes & bracketed, italic additions.]
[THANKS TO YOUR SUPPORT CedarS "Emerge ‘n See" NEEDS were met by year-end! We were able to buy needed hay and get timely funding for building and equipment repairs!
Our main funding goals for early 2013 are raising funds for camperships and operations support. If you'd rather not give online, thank you for mailing your checks to:
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[Additional Director's Note: You can sign up to have these application ideas emailed to you free -- by Monday each week in English; or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION: in German, thanks to Helga and Manfred; or in Spanish, thanks to a team of Ana, Erick, Claudia and Patricio. A voluntary French translation by Pascal or Denise cannot be guaranteed due to their busy schedules. An "official" version of the weekly Portuguese translation is now available for CedarS Mets, thanks to helpers of Orlando Trentini in Brazil. You can email him by clicking Orlando Trentini to be added to the list.
This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 11-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "Mets" (Metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians. (Ask and look for "Possible Sunday School Topics "and "Possible Younger Class Lessons" in subsequent emails.) These weekly offerings are intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets "and Sunday School ideas are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension and background as well as new angles (and angels) on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson.com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e.B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "Met" (Metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-30). The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.]
[PSST: Happy New Year of God Answering Prayers!]
Possible Sunday School Topics by Merrill Boudreaux
for CedarS’ Met on the January 6, 2013
Christian Science Bible Lesson: “GOD”
P.S.S.T. - Golden Text & Responsive Reading [Like those experiencing CedarS A.P. (Answered Prayer) History course on our Bible Time Travelers Trail, we can each have our happiest New Year yet as we] Explore the nature of prayer: what it is, its use, its impact on the user. In the Bible are often listed two types of prayer: the prayer of affirmation and the prayer of petition. Both of these types of prayers are active in the thought or consciousness of the one who prays. What is prayer? See Science and Health 1:1-14. [“The prayer that reforms to sinner and heals the sick is…”] Ask students to identify the prayers of affirmation and petition in the Responsive Reading. Look to the last line in verse 24 for the assurance that God hears and responds to prayers.
P.S.S.T. – Section 1
- How many gods are there? One God.
- Where is God to be found? Everywhere, for God is All.
- When can you pray? Anytime.
- Where can you pray? Everywhere.
- Must prayer be with words? Not necessarily. Prayer can be silent, with observation, with quiet listening.
- Are there individuals who cannot pray or do not know how to pray? No.
Look to this section to answer the following:
- What is the nature of God?
- What is man’s ability in his relationship with God?
- How can one begin prayer? S-3.
- What does divine metaphysics (above physics) reveal? S-3, line 20.
- What is the impact of prayer? S-3, line 26.
- Why are we called on to rejoice ever in the midst of a challenge? S-4.
- What does “affluence” mean? Are you affluent? That is, do you have all that you need, right now, to pray?
- Affirm that all prayer is effective.
P.S.S.T. - Section 2
Look for statements that affirm God as good in this section. Here is a key phrase in citation B-8: “…with whom is no variableness….” What does the word “variableness” mean? What does the word “assurance” mean? Are you in harmony with God? Why? Citations S-7 and S-8.
P.S.S.T. – Section 3
Can you trust God to be God, to be Good, to be All? Read the Bible story in citation B-11. Why was Daniel cast into the den of lions? Because he prayed to God instead of to the king. What was the effect or outcome of Daniel’s prayer? Prayer often precedes the effect. See citation S-11. What is the prayer of affirmation in citation S-11? Because God is Good and All, what is the impact on all creatures? See citation S-13, lines 28-30.
P.S.S.T. - Section 4
How did Jesus demonstrate authority over sin, sickness, and death? B-14 and S-14. Do you have the same authority? See yourself in citation S-18 because the Christ (God with us) is ever-present with you.
Is sickness real? Is sin real? Is death real? Prayer helps you affirm the truth – demand to see it present in your experience. When you prove it to be so in your experience, you also prove it to be so in the experience of all mankind. Citation S-19. Affirm that your prayer and all prayers are successful.
P.S.S.T. – Section 5
What is compassion? How did Jesus show compassion for a man in the multitude in citation B-16? What does it mean to go into the closet to pray? Citation B-17. See citation S-23 for clarification. Is prayer belief, faith, trust, hope? These may be stepping stones to get you to the assurance of the result based on God as Good, as All. Citation S-25. Stick to the truth of being. Citation S-24. Please review the Scientific Statement of Being in Science & Health, page 468:8-15.
P.S.S.T. – Section 6
What a powerful way to close this Lesson, with gratitude and thanks to God. Ask students to share their attitude of gratitude. What are they most grateful for? Ask students to memorize citation S-30. This is a prayer of affirmation that once again affirms God as Good, as All. That is enough.
[PYCL: Share when God has felt most present!]
CedarS PYCLs--Possible Younger Class Lessons for:
The Christian Science Bible Lesson for January 6, 2013
by Kerry Jenkins, CS, House Springs, MO (314) 406-0041 [Bracketed inserts by Warren Huff]
[PYCL: Share tangible, everyday examples of when God has felt most present.]
Consider talking about what they think God is. Try to get away from a rote recitation of the synonyms if they are old enough to know them. Ask them to be specific about when they feel God is present or active in their lives. If they don't think they have experienced that then try to give them simple examples in your own life so they understand that it is not all about the “big” healings. I'll share one example that stands out to me, not particularly for you to share unless you think it's helpful, but to get the “juices” flowing. When one of my girls was about 9 or 10, she was walking a neighbor's dog quickly before we went to a movie. We had rules about this since we lived in the city in a slightly sketchy area. This particular time she just forgot in her hurry to do her job for the neighbor and she neither brought her sister along, nor did she bring one of our very big and intimidating dogs along with her and the small neighbor dog. Long story short, a man pulled up alongside her and began speaking inappropriately to her. She tried to ignore him and kept walking until he got out of the car and tried to force her into the car. At that point there were 4 neighborhood people who jumped to her rescue and the man got back in his car and took off. The next day, as I was talking to her about the incident in a prayerful light, I asked her this question: “Where was God when that guy showed up and tried to get you?” She answered that she didn't know. I knew without a doubt and told her, that God was present for her in the woman from up the street who left off washing her dishes when she saw the man talking to my daughter and began following her down the street; in the man sitting on his porch as he did every day, watching the goings on in the neighborhood, and in the young woman who was walking her own dog down the block towards my daughter. We had never met the woman who came out of her apartment to follow our daughter, or another woman who came out to support our daughter's report to the police. Nevertheless, they were expressing the love of God, the generosity of Love, the caring and compassion and wisdom and alertness of Mind that provides for the safety of every one of us. Even when things don't appear to turn out as “well” as they did for our daughter, we can be sure that wherever we are, we can perceive and feel God's presence when we look. Sorry for the long example, but I love still to think about this as a tangible example of how God is present and how He/She doesn't have to be something “otherworldly” or even out of the ordinary. So, see if you can encourage some daily ways that you or they can perceive God as a real presence in our lives, because truly we are the way God is expressed so it behooves us to be able to perceive that and, as the 6th section encourages us to do, to give gratitude for that!
[PYCL: Ask questions on prayer to God. Enter a closet’s quiet privacy, faith, understanding]
The Golden Text tells us that God has heard us and “given heed” to our prayer. Ask them what “given heed” means. What does it mean to pray to God and what can we expect? Most of the older ones will already understand that prayer and the answering of it, doesn't mean we always get what we want. Why is that and what is the point of praying to God? What is our goal, as God's highest expression? What should we aspire to be? I don't think these questions are too lofty for young kids. They want to think about “big” things. This set of questions about praying to God can last as long or as short as is productive for your particular class. With the youngest classes you can talk about the 5th section and the idea of entering into the closet (Matt. 6:6, B17). Some may not have heard of this as of yet. What does the “closet” symbolize? If your class is manageable, lead them to a closet space in your church, I know we have a couple. Hold hands and maybe turn out the lights if they are not mischievous or afraid. Talk about the privacy, the quiet (if you are not closeted with the rumbling furnace). How can we do this with our thoughts and prayers? What does it mean to “shut the door”? They should be able to tell you, depending on their age, what it feels like to be in a closet, shut and quiet. Why would this help us to listen to God and to pray? Have them tell you what their “closet” thought would be. Would they maybe go climb a favorite tree and look up at the branches? Would they perhaps just go to their room and shut their eyes and even cover their ears? What would they expect to hear? Maybe you just hear quiet sometimes and an idea might come as your own thought. That's usually God talking. The 5th section also emphasizes the importance of how faith and understanding of God are linked. Talk about the two things. What does faith mean to them? You can use the oft-quoted Bible passage about how “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. What does that mean to them and why is it important? How can faith be solidly founded on an understanding of God and hence why are we studying God this week?
[PYCL: Share how to live the 1st Com.; build on God's presence & on unselfish endeavor!]
The first section has a rendition of the first Commandment. That's always a useful study at any age. See if they can give you an example from their life of how that commandment works for them. Give an example yourself so they might have a model if they don't understand what you are getting at. For example, I might feel kind of sad and depressed on a day, but turning to the first Commandment I can see that I would be worshiping another God if I accepted that I have a mind that is separate from the one Mind that is consistently blessing, productive and joyful. This may not mean that I'm instantly happy, but it gives me a platform from which to build my day on unselfish endeavor and a wider recognition of God's presence in my experience. It helps me see that with one God, I am connected to mankind and that there is a pressing need for my participation in a positive way.
[PYCL: Consider girding pupils with an actual sash, & divine ideas that protect or bless!]
For the littlest ones look at citation B4 and see what it says in myBibleLesson.com (the publication from the Mother Church on http://jsh.christianscience.com/ ) about “girding”. This “...refers to putting on a belt or sash—possibly as a part of armor or for carrying a sword.” Maybe you could come with some fabric to make sashes and they could write with permanent marker on them, the ideas from the one God that protect, govern or bless us. Talk about how we go out into our day with God wrapped around us, filling us with good. The sash might represent that presence and protection.
[PYCL: Discuss Daniel & his moral courage; try rewriting the story: what are today’s lions?]
Of course there is the wonderful story of Daniel in the lion’s den. You can always share this one with the younger classes. You can talk about it on so many levels. With the littlest it is a story of being kept safe by God. What do the lions represent to us today? With older classes you can talk about the obedience and faith and fearlessness that Daniel expressed by continuing to worship publicly when he knew the consequences. Talk about moral courage displayed in this story. Can they rewrite the story with modern circumstances? What would the request be for us to do today, obviously not bowing down to a literal statue? This story also illustrates how we can sometimes be even a decent person and be fooled into making a stupid decision that affects someone adversely. How can we get out of it? What did Darius do when he realized how he had been duped? Do you think that his prayers all night had any effect on Daniel's situation? Ultimately what happened to the “evil” motives in this story? They had no effect except to make very public the power and safety provided by the one God. So evil destroys itself and ultimately God is made more visible and real with every demonstration and challenge that we overcome.
I hope this gives you some fun things to think about for Sunday!